Monday, February 23, 2009

Practically Speaking – Part 1 of 3

All who read this blog know me to be someone who has a passion to speak words that are based on being rooted, grounded and established in the grace of God and in our identity in Him. My almost 800 posts speak to that! Although this post is a bit different from my other posts, I do believe that what I’m going to say here is rooted in the pure grace of God.

I’ve said plenty of times that I’m very opposed to the idea that the Christian life is a matter of living by rules, principles, methods, etc. Life in Christ is a matter of His life in us, working in us and through us and out of us. It’s not about us studying principles to keep us and guide us. It’s not about becoming better people, but rather it’s about living from the new creations that we already are, trusting in Christ’s life in us to animate us.

So does that mean that we never speak words to one another that spur on this animated new creation life? Does resting in Christ simply mean we sit back, basking in His love and grace, and before you know it we’re simply bearing good fruit? Does it mean that as long as we’re learning our identity in Him, and we become established in His love and grace, that everything automatically falls into place?

Of necessity, we will never live out the Christ life in its most natural way unless we’re rooted, grounded and established in His love and grace and in our identity in Him. I can never see myself not believing that! As I’ve looked back on my life and have seen myself and others growing in all of this, and growing in the outward expression of who we already are on the inside, I’ve noticed that a lot of it has come from some really great encouraging words from others, as well as some really great – and practical – Christ-and-grace-filled exhortations and admonitions from others.

The word practical simply means “capable of being used or put into effect.” In speaking these practical words to one another in our Christ-life, we can bring out the Christ in each other. Christ is living in us no matter what, of course! Sometimes “considering one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Heb 10:24) and “exhorting one another” (Heb 10:25) means that Christ speaks words to us through one another that aid in bringing about the change of mind, attitude, decision making process, etc, that leads to real Christ-produced fruit. None of this is to give us any better of a standing before God, or to make us closer to Him. That was all taken care of with the Blood of Jesus. No… these are all simply words that we can use with one another to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

For quite some time I was really turned off by even the mention of any of this. “Principles for Christian living” had been jammed into my head through the constant preaching and teaching of them, and I knew that I knew that I knew that this was not what the Christian life was about. Practical teaching has been very overdone and has become a very legalistic thing in the church. People have even used it to control and manipulate others. Church ‘leaders’ have sadly turned them into rules and commands, taking away from the original intent of this type of talk amongst one another.

And so in saying all of this, I want to be absolutely clear that I’m not saying that our life in Christ is a matter of striving to apply godly principles to our lives. It’s not a matter of preaching a new set of principles every week and then going out and trying to make them work.

What I am saying is that as we get more and more rooted and grounded and established in grace and in our identity in Christ, God can and does speak to us in all kinds of ways, through internal and external means, and part of that includes encouraging, exhorting and admonishing us through each other.

The Apostle Paul did a whole lot of this in his epistles. It can be a very grace-full thing to speak these things to one another. Again, it doesn’t make us “better people” and it doesn’t make us any closer to God. It simply helps to bring out the life of Christ.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3